Who’s that woman all in white? – Madame Récamier

“A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white.” Edmund Bertram, Mansfield Park

Who’s that beautiful lady prominently displayed on the cover of so many recent Jane Austen inspired novels? Why Frenchwoman, Jeanne-Françoise Julie Adélaïde Bernard Récamier (1777 – 1849), an icon of neoclassicism and a leader of the literary and political circles of the early 19th century. This fine portrait of her was painted in 1802 by her fellow countryman François Gérard (1770-1837) and now hangs in the Carnavalet Museum in Paris.  A second portrait of her by Jacques-Louis David became so famous that the style of sofa that she is reclining upon is still called a recamier today. You can visit both the portrait and her stylish sofa at the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Here is a display of four recent book covers using her image from the Gérard portrait.

10 thoughts on “Who’s that woman all in white? – Madame Récamier

  1. Well spotted! Love the cover of By A Lady, especially. But I’m a sucker for anything that combines vintage images with modern ones, a la Laurie Viera Rigler’s covers for Rude Awakenings… and Confessions…! :)

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  2. I wonder what these strange titles/covers would have done to Mark Twain’s objection that all Austen’s characters seemed like “Presbyterians”!

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  3. Seems a bit strange. A Frenchwoman used for so many covers related to sequels based on an English woman’s (Jane Austen) works – whose brothers were fighting to make sure the French didn’t overtake England. She is very beautiful and it is a very gorgeous portrait. I agree however with Stephanie. The titles and covers are going to be confusing. I think Sourcebooks should realize this. I have read at least 2 of the 4 authors whose books these are. I do go by cover when I reach for a book to quickly peruse.

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    • I do agree Sue that the irony of using the portrait of a Frenchwoman on the cover of an English author inspired book is baffling, but it is the kind of paradox that Austen would find amusing. I have also seen images of Lady Emma Hamilton, a reputed beauty of her generation, on the cover of French themed novels, so there is some unintentional social justice at work.

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  4. You know I never thought of it as social justice…..I was just thinking how odd. My mind doesn’t seem to dig down into the deeper political type issues. It was just an observation. But I am so glad to know that there are other real live women gracing bookcovers because they fit the theme for the time period.

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